Saturday, November 6

10 Reasons Why The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Was Ballin' Television

      The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest was the quintessential show that defined my childhood (and believe me, I watched  A LOT of TV). It made me want to become a voice-actor as well as solidified my love for the medium of animation and for all things pretty much awesome. The show ran from August of 1996 to April of 1997 airing 52 episodes before being cancelled due to money issues and low viewership (but high critical praise). Fans went 12 years without an official release of the series until February 2009, when the first 13 episodes were released on DVD. Unfortunately, the WB has no plans to release any more eps, nor revive the series because sales didn't do as well as anticipated.

     So, I decided to make a list of the top 10 reasons why this show made for ballin' television so that if you weren't in love with it before, you will be by the end.  And if you were already a fan, it'll be a good refresher for you. Every week I'll post another reason (or 2) for why this show was awesome until Christmas time (by which time, I'm sure there will be dozens of JQ DVDs in stockings over fireplaces everywhere, right?)

     I'll probably be preaching to a large choir, but if I can muster up a few converts, I can die happy (without the dying part). So, without further ado... 

Reason #1: The Opening Credits

      The original 1960's Jonny Quest and the 1996 version both featured music and animation that were considered edgy and action-packed for their day. TRAJQ used the original theme as a basis and then proceeded to pimp it out with a full orchestra and a Mission Impossible fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants intensity to it.

The original:

     If you watched the show back when it originally aired or in its reruns on Toonami, I don't have to tell you how hearing the opening music would get your 11-year-old sugar-riddled mind friggin’ pumped for the episode about to follow. It was like cramming a full-length adventure into a can of condensed Awesome Noodle Soup (Because Jonny Quest ain’t no chicken). I don’t really need to say more about this element of it because just watching the intro will speak for itself. 

So, speak away bad-ass opening theme song:
 



Reason #2: Questworld

   This is one of the more debated issues regarding this series. Some loved the use of virtual reality in the reboot of the Quest franchise; some thought it was cheesy and superfluous. For those of you unfamiliar with TRAJQ, Questworld was an on-line virtual reality computer system created by Dr. Quest to help him do sciensy genius stuff. But mostly, it became a really cool place for the kids to get their game on. At least one person (usually Hadji) had to remain in the real world to operate and monitor the system while the user donned a snazzy green visor made out of lazers. Here’s a quicky video, often aired at the end of episodes called a "QuestByte," using a lot of what I’m pretty sure are made up words to explain the genesis and features of Questworld (Ignore the little robot voices, somebody added those on youtube and I'm not sure why):




Sure, at times it did seem like the creators of the show were just utilizing it to showcase the abilities of this new three-dimensional technology and emphasize “this isn’t your momma’s Jonny Quest, you better recognize.”  It was only 1996 and 3D animation was still getting its sea legs, which explains why the virtual reality sequences were choppy, stilted, and lacked all the most intimate detailing of the character’s sweat glands that we’ve become so accustomed to in modern gaming. Because this novel method of producing animation was so new and computers weren’t as powerful as those of 2010, it was mucho expensivo to pay a team of highly-skilled animators to put in hundreds of man hours working on your project. Unless you had Pixar’s budget, you were going to run into problems somewhere down the line. 

Somebody paid their rent by animating this guy's acne scars and 5 o' clock shadow. Just consider that for a moment.
There was a marked improvement in the animation quality by season 2 when Hannah Barbara switched from Buzz F/X to a different virtual animation house, Blur Studios. In an e-mail that can be found on the awesome Questfan.com, Francis Lord, a CGI animator at Buzz F/X explained the disparities between the two Questworlds:

“The reason why the first shows were ugly is that we never had time for pre-production, the technology wasn't strong enough, and the lack of talent... or should I say budget. Mainframe Entertainment (who is doing Reboot) had two years of preproduction, a bunch of Onyx to render and a team of animators from the Sheradon College. If you look at the newest episodes like Digital Doublecross, you must know that Blur Studio had twice as time as we did and twice as money. And they had team already implemented instead of building a team from scratch.”

       
Season 1
Season 2
Aside from the quality of the visual aspects of Questworld, I really dug the way it was often integrated into the episodes to move the plot along and not just a spectacle for tech nerds to dork out over (although that factor can’t be discounted either). On multiple occasions, Questworld is used to bring a comatose or otherwise unconscious person back from the beyond. When was the last time your 360 did that? Thought so.

One of my favorite Questworld-centric episodes was “Digital Doublecross” where Jonny and Jessie are enjoying a little friendly VR competition when their game is hijacked by your friendly neighborhood quadriplegic mastermind, Dr. Jeremiah Surd. Surd rigs the system so that manually aborting the game or pulling the plug only causes a world of hurt for the players, thus effectively trapping them in the game until they either beat the system (not likely) or die of exhaustion. Throw in some murderous CG clones of J & J, add a sprinkle of confusion as to who’s real and who’s the pixelated sociopath and you have a recipe for a pretty exciting episode which unfortunately culminates with a cliché “No, shoot him! I'm the real [insert any sci-fi character name here]."

Come to think of it, Dr. Quest designed Questworld as a harmless program used for gaming, archiving information, and random internet shenanigans. You would think that since he had precious top-secret documents in the system as well as, you know, children playing on it, he would have set up an effective firewall to keep out internet predators who are bored and have nothing better to do.  It baffled me time and again how someone like Surd, who was so incapacitated that he had to have someone feed him applesauce through a straw and change his diapers, could somehow consistently cyber pwn the Quest Team considering his only help were two henchmen so useless he could only have found them on Craigslist.

"Paralyzed super villain seeks henchmen to aid in trash-talking 10-year-old girls on XBox Live. Some light housekeeping may be required as well. No experience necessary.
Aside from lacking an active subscription to Norton Anti-Virus, Questworld was still awesome even if just in theory. The concept of Questworld and virtual reality was and still is way ahead of its time and if the show was picked up again, this element would fare much better now than it did over a decade ago. Questworld allowed users to wage warfare using virtual reality in the subconscious mind THREE YEARS BEFORE the Wachowski Brothers popularized it in The Matrix. We’re beginning also to see the progression towards its likeness in interactive gaming platforms like the Nintendo Wii but reaching a point where it’s as fully immersive as Questworld may be a long way away.

Being able to see psychically into the future. Yet another reason why this show was brilliant television.

Quest Team: 1. Technological Innovation: 0.
 And just for fun, so that you can compare the striking similarities of Questworld technology to  that of the Matrix franchise, here's a spoof trailer I made a while ago using Jonny Quest footage to the audio from the Matrix Reloaded trailer.



Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the next Reason Why The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Was Ballin' Television.


NOTE TO ALL TRUE BLUE JQ FANS:
When I wrote this on November 6th, the Season 1: Volume 1 DVD of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest was ranked at a pitiful  #30,663 on amazon.com's Movies & TV sales ranking. The He-Man Masters of the Universe box set is holding steady at a very comfortable #496. Not even the original He-Man but the doofy 2002 reboot of the 80's series.

Really, people? Let's try and close the gap a little shall we?

The closer the sales ranking gets to the top 100, the more likely they will consider releasing the remaining 39 episodes of JQ on DVD, as well as potentially putting a 3rd season in the works.

I bought my copy last March, but I'm throwing down the gauntlet to those of you that claim you truly loved this show. In order to improve sales rankings and secure the future of this show, you must: 
  1. Buy a new copy from any reputable online vendor (NOT used. Unfortunately, when you buy used copies, 0% of those profits go back to the creators and the company who would actually be able to bring the show back so it's wasted money for the cause).
  2. If you're super awesome, you'll buy a copy for a friend or sibling for Christmas.

There. You have your challenge: 100 copies of the Season 1, Volume 1 DVD sold by Christmas. I'm sure there are definitely more than 100 of you that haven't bought your copy yet so I think this is totally doable and would be sending a big message to the distributors that JQ is still in demand and we want more. 

Remember: friends don't let friends watch He-Man murder Jonny Quest.

"Jonny Quest, consider yourself pwned"




...Do it for the kids.

5 comments:

carla said...

came over from your facebook announcement and i have to say: HELLZ YEAH THE THEME SONG. i had never actually bothered hearing the two JQ theme songs side-by-side, and i'm now astounded by the difference. i was always a big fan of TRA's theme song, but holy cow if it's not absolutely EPIC compared to the original. especially since i originally watched the spanish dub and had to be subjected to the stupid voice overs since obviously 10-year-olds can't understand that "dr. benton quest" means dr. benton quest in english. but seriously, the TRA version, it's like: "hey, dudes. we're back, and we're bigger, badder, and too awesome for the nineties. we'll rock your socks off, bitch." i love it. xD

and questworld was always amazing. nowadays it seems really poor considering how technology has advanced and what we're accustomed to, but back in '96 it was unheard of to have CGI in a cartoon, let alone the idea of a fully-immersive VR system. it was visionary. and i always loved how they integrated it into the plot (i particularly loved the ending to "digital doublecross"-- sometimes cliches can be good!). even toward the end of season two when they started skimping on the CGI, at least the idea of questworld was still awesome.

i want to thank you for this initiative, btw. i already bought my DVD set back when it was first released, and unfortunately i don't know anyone in real life who liked the show as much as i do, but i hope something comes out of this new attempt at momentum.

i run a JQ:TRA fanlisting over at http://kyoudai.net/jq (which is solely lacking in members, btw) and i'll probably make a mention of this in there somewhere, if you don't mind-- any attention we can draw to this is welcome. JQ totally deserves another shot. heck, i'll even watch the zac efron movie if it gets made, if only just because it's JQ, and any JQ is better than no JQ IMO.

thanks for this, and i'm looking forward to your future JQ posts!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the blog
hope to see more JQ soon :)

Chless said...

Got the Facebook message and super glad I did. Gotta love JQ. I got the DVD back in March too but I'll figure out somebody that could get it for a Christmas prezzie. After all if it's the thought that counts and in my thoughts it's the most BAMF cartoon out there, it's a decent gift whether they like it or not. Right? Right.

lizfav said...

I also got the facebook message and came meandering over. I'm glad to see people out there who are still so passionate about JQ!!! I fell out of the fandom years ago (ah, the problems of RL) but still keep in touch with many MLers. I have bootlegs of the series (before they were ever out on DVD) but I can tell you that after this, JQ is definately going on my christmas list!!!!!

sayeedy said...

just got your facebook mesaage. its refreshing to see that there are still so much fan of trajq.